As a VP-level professional with two-foot dreadlocks and a tendency toward wearing flip flops in the office, I couldn’t pass up the temptation to chime in about Ellen Gordon Reeves’s new book, “Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview?”
Fifty years ago, a person would have to be crazy to tell young people entering the job force to be themselves if being true to their style meant flaunting their dyed hair or odd piercing. However, Reeves’s book couldn’t be timelier. In addition to providing invaluable information about networking, crafting a winning résumé and creating an elevator pitch—things we try to impress upon young people daily here at YSN—the new book encourages young people to be themselves and seek out opportunities that make sense for them, which is crucial and all too possible in the 21st century and the age of the internet.
One reason this book stood out to me now more than it might have only one month ago is because, a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Anaheim DECA conference for young entrepreneurs and professionals. Somehow, I was mistaken as a suitable career mentor and was asked to talk to graduating high school seniors about pursuing their dreams. A young kid, also with dreadlocks, came up to me between sessions and asked me if I thought having dreadlocks would affect his career possibilities. He was from the South and had obviously been met with some skepticism by potential employers. With only a couple minutes to chat before the next session, I told the young entrepreneur that, if his dreadlocks meant something to him and were part of who he was, he shouldn’t cut them just to please potential employers. “If an employer doesn’t like dreadlocks and dreadlocks are an important part of your identity,” I said, “in the long run, they probably aren’t going to like you and, even if they do, you’ll probably resent them and the job from day one.”
The kid seemed gratified to see that someone else was having some success and staying true to their own style, and was even encouraging him to do so. It was actually a pretty cool moment and one of the better ways for me to be a mentor – staying true to myself in the process. That’s why Reeves’s new book gets two thumb rings up as far as I am concerned. A million people can give career advice, as my mentorship status shows, but a book that encourages people to be themselves in their careers is a breath of fresh air and a perfect guide for young people trying to achieve true happiness in their pursuit of success. It is obviously something that weighs heavily on the mind of creative and unique young superstars and I’m glad this kind of advice is being pushed out through traditional channels. Cheers, Ellen!